Unser Blog

New year, new retailing: gearing up for NRF 2018

k

12 . Januar  2018

Alison Wiltshire

Posts nach Autoren: Alison Wiltshire, Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, BT.

LinkedIn

As soon as we’ve taken down the decorations and put out the recycling, it’s time to get ready for the first big retail event of the new year: the National Retail Federation’s annual convention and show in New York on 14 to 16 January 2018. The BT retail team will be there alongside our colleagues from the Acuitas Digital Alliance, ready to talk to retailers about how we can help them with their digital transformation plans.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve hosted many leading bricks and mortar retailers at our Alexander Black concept stores, keen to expand their understanding of how digital technologies can transform their business. It’s a big undertaking to catch up with digital disrupters such as Amazon and ASOS but those retailer leaders we speak to are absolutely up for the challenge. Our discussions tend to crystallise around four core areas: the customer experience, the digital employee, the underlying IT and network infrastructure, and security issues.

Creating the right customer experience often starts with a mix of digital touchpoints in store. There are plenty of imaginative, immersive and exciting solutions that engage all the senses and make the store a great place to visit. However, the store is only one stop on the customer journey and it’s important to collect and use customer data at every stage to provide a much more personal experience, before, during and after the sale. To this end, the retailer needs to have data collection and business analytics embedded into their overall digital store infrastructure.

Engaged, informed and enthusiastic sales associates can have a hugely positive impact on the customer’s experience. And when you give them easy access to real time inventory, social media reviews, marketing content and importantly, each customer’s purchase history and preferences, they can provide a fantastic interaction all the way from greeting the customer as they arrive in store right through to checkout. Digital technology can upskill and upscale the job of sales associate. But the idea of the digital employee should extend from the sales floor throughout the organisation. Mobile devices, easy connectivity, digital processes and collaboration tools can enhance the productivity of everyone from store manager and merchandisers on the road, buyers and board members.

To give both customers and employees a great experience, the underlying technology infrastructure must be much more flexible than has traditionally been the case. Our recent CEO research identified inflexible infrastructure as a barrier to digital transformation. For a truly digital business, retailers need an infrastructure that delivers high availability, capacity for peak demand, the ability to prioritise key applications and is ready for the Internet of Things which is rapidly finding its place in stores. The conversations we have with retailers focus on how moving to the cloud for new digital services can give the business much more flexibility.

In tandem, retailers need an equally flexible network that is fast and easy to scale. The way forward lies in network function virtualisation (NFV) and software defined networking, technologies which let the retailer build a more agile network. For example, by replacing specialist networking hardware with software functions, retailers can add new branches in days not weeks, or keep security protocols up to date consistently.

All such conversations eventually come round to security. Of course, retailers are no strangers to criminal activity such as theft, fraud and counterfeiting. But by its nature, digital transformation is going to open up the attack surface, with all sorts of devices from customers’ smartphones to instore tracking devices connecting to the network. Retailers need to protect assets (and it’s not just customer data - British grocery retailer Morrisons has been found liable for a former employee leaking personal information about nearly 100,000 members of staff) and defend their network against DDOS, malware and other malicious events.

We’re looking forward to continuing these conversations at NRF. We’ll be joining RetailNext on booth (# 3165, Level 3) so do come along to learn more about BT and our Acuitas Digital Alliance partners.